Georgia Southern is one win away from advancing to the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals for a second consecutive season.
Standing in the way are the Maine Black Bears. GSU beat Maine in 2002 (31-7) and in 1987 (31-28). The third-ranked and third-seeded Eagles (10-2) will play the No. 13 Black Bears (9-3) a third time at 2 p.m. Saturday at Paulson Stadium in the FCS quarterfinals.
GSU beat No. 10 Old Dominion (10-2), 55-48, on Saturday in a second-round game at Paulson Stadium.
The Maine-GSU winner will advance to the semifinals and play the Lehigh-North Dakota State winner Dec. 16 or Dec. 17 at a site to be determined.
Fourth-ranked and second-seeded North Dakota State (11-1) beat No. 17 James Madison (8-5), 26-14, in the second round. Sixth-ranked Lehigh (11-1) defeated No. 8 Towson (9-3), 40-38, in the second round. Maine defeated No. 9 Appalachian State (8-4), 34-12, on Saturday in Boone, N.C. It was the Black Bears’ first playoff victory since 2002. Maine last reached the FCS quarterfinals in 2001.
“Having been to App. State as an assistant with coach (Paul) Johnson, and then this past season with our team, I know how difficult it is to go in there and win,” GSU second-year head coach Jeff Monken said. “And for them to do what they did against App. State really says a lot about their football team. They’re a well-coached team. Coach (Jack) Cosgrove has been there for many years and, obviously, he does a great job with that program.”
Appalachian State beat GSU, 24-17, on Oct. 29 in Boone, N.C. The Mountaineers gained 98 yards rushing against the Eagles.
Maine limited Appalachian State to 3 yards rushing. Linebacker Troy Russell made nine tackles, including 2.5 for loss.
“Their guys up front on defense play really hard,” Monken said. “They may be as good a run-blocking team as we’ve faced this year.”
The Black Bears gained 466 yards of total offense (216 rushing, 250 passing) compared to the Mountaineers’ 275 yards of total offense.
“Defensively, we just have no idea what they’ll line up in,” Monken said. “We can only speculate. Probably have to get prepared for multiple fronts again like we did last week, just not knowing what they’ll line up in.
“Obviously, when we run an offense like we do that’s so different from other people, you don’t have film of them playing against that offense, which we don’t. They didn’t have anybody in their conference or in their three out-of-conference games, they were not against option teams. We kind of have to just take a guess and hope that we’re going to be right on some of it.”
Maine running back Pushaun Brown ran 24 times for 111 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown, against Appalachian State. Running back David Hood ran four times for 88 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown.
Maine quarterback Warren Smith was 17-of-26 passing for 250 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Wide receiver Damarr Aultman made five receptions for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
“Their quarterback does a terrific job with the ball. He, too, has the ability to pull it down and run it like this kid we saw this past weekend (Old Dominion’s Taylor Heinicke),” Monken said. “They have maybe the best tight end, (Justin Perillo), both blocking and receiving tight end, that we’ve seen this year as well.”
Maine was picked by Colonial Athletic Association coaches to finish ninth in the 10-team league. Instead, the Black Bears tied for second (6-2) in the conference with Old Dominion. Towson won the CAA championship at 7-1.
To beat Maine, Monken said the Eagles must play better defense, eliminate turnovers and improve on special teams. The Eagles fumbled six times against Old Dominion, losing the ball twice.
“We’re trying to play the best football that we can. We didn’t do that Saturday,” Monken said. “Certainly, some of that had to do with Old Dominion, but we’ve got to play better. We’ve got to defend the pass better, and we’ve got to keep the quarterback from being able to pull the ball down when he can’t get it to his receivers and running it for 10, 12, 15 yards, which happened a bunch of times on Saturday.
“We’ve got to eliminate fumbling the football. That can really cost us. We had a kick blocked on Saturday, and that’s the second week in a row. We had one (blocked) against Alabama and that was a field goal. This one was an extra point. We’ve got to do a better job of protecting our kicker.”